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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Alea Dilemma

Within the Clamor of Voices

Review by Gary Hill

This album is pretty impressive. It runs along the lines of guitar driven progressive rock. There is a lot of modern sound here. It leans toward fusion a good chunk of the time. It even wanders near heavy metal at times. There are definite nods to the sounds of bands like Dixie Dregs and also to King’s X, if you ask me. It seldom loses sight of the groove, and that’s a good thing. While there isn’t a huge range stylistically, it never feels monolithic or samey. It’s a solid set start to finish, but some songs do manage to stand above the rest.

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Track by Track Review

The meaty opening riff on this makes me think of something Derek Sherinian might do. The cut builds out to a screaming prog jam that shifts and changes like crazy. Dream Theater is at times a valid reference point. The vocal arrangement is melodic, but soaring and rocking. This is just such a cool tune.

As the opening vocals guide this in, it’s musically more like a mellow fusion sound. The cut shifts out to more of a hard edged prog groove from there, though. Although there is a mellower drop back later in the track (that leans toward psychedelia), this is a pretty fierce number. Parts of it are more rock oriented, while other sections come in more along the fusion border.
Down the Rabbit Hole
This extended instrumental is very much a pure fusion exploration. It makes me think of Al Di Meola in a lot of ways, really. It has some smoking hot guitar soloing.
Forsaken Pawns
I’m reminded of King’s X to a large degree on parts of this. It’s another proggy jam with a killer groove. There is a real soulful vibe to this one. It has a lot of fusion built into it, too. The harder edged stuff leans toward heavy metal, too. The balance between mellower and more rocking on this cut is pretty impressive. There are some smoking hot riff driven jams built into this, too.
Beyond the Realm
Drums lead things off here. The music builds out in a rather mysterious way from there. Melodic vocals come over the top of that backdrop. The first four minutes or so go along in a fairly melodic way, leaning heavily toward fusion. Then it powers to a more hard-edged jam from there, with some crunchy guitar driving it. It still has a lot of fusion built into it. It’s a dramatic and powerful instrumental movement. That moves us back out into the song proper as it finishes. A harder rocking section later even seems a bit like Pink Floyd to me. That takes it to the short, melodic, closing movement.
Betrayed Brilliance
Mellow atmospherics lead out on this piece. As the song works forward, it has a bit of fusion, some melodic rock and something that again reminds me of King’s X. There is a fast paced, harder rocking jam mid-track that gives way to a mellower exploration. They bring it back to the song proper from there.
The Catalyst
Although this cut occupies the same stylistic territory as the rest of the album, it never really seems samey. In some ways this more purely progressive rock oriented than some of the rest. I love the instrumental section mid-track.
The opening movement here is very much a slightly bluesy kind of jazz treatment. The piece rises up toward fusion as it builds from there. This is another that’s not a huge stretch, but manages to stand apart. I really love the fusion guitar solo segment near the end of the song.
The Machine
Weighing in at over ten minutes in length, this piece is epic in size and scope. It’s not like it’s a huge variation from the rest. It’s more a case of ramping up the intensity. The instrumental jam mid-track is an amazing bit of fusion and prog blended together. It screams out with passion and power. It’s arguably the best musical passage of the entire set. Of course, that section, with all kinds of twists and turns, makes up a huge chunk of the piece, really.
Survive Another Mile
This is also an extensive number, making up nearly the last nine and a half minutes of the album. Piano starts it and holds with some rather ominous melodies. The vocals come in over the top of that, bringing a melancholy feeling. It’s around the two minute mark when it moves into a new direction. The cut works through with a cool melodic prog jam. It’s still mellow, but more powered up than it was. There is a drop back mid-track to an almost creepy movement with some soundbites and mellower music. It rises up to a rather triumphant sounding rocking jam from there. It eventually drops back to just piano to end it in style. It was a great ride, and one of the highlights of the disc.
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